Standing Desk

standing desk showing height adjustment
Standing in the office is all the rage now. And for good reasons . . .

Why You Should Use a Standing Desk (for at Least Part of Each Day)

Your body was simply not designed to sit all day. As soon as you sit down, you disrupt vital physiological processes that help your body process fats and sugars. You distort muscles and other tissues and disconnect kinetic chains that keep your body aligned. When you sit for long periods of time, the consequences add up, culminating in that bundle of conditions known as "sitting disease."

As James Levine, the man who coined the term "sitting disease," says, "If sitting is the problem, standing is the answer." By now, we all know this, and many of us are trying to stand more during the workday. You might stand when you answer the phone, or conduct standing meetings, or stand up when you read.

But the best solution to your sitting problem may well be a standing desk.

One-Stop Shopping for Standing-Desk Information

You'll find here everything you need to navigate the vast and ever-expanding body of knowledge on standing desks, including:

An Industry Erupts

Standing desks now come in a huge variety of models, styles, colors, and finishes. As recently as five years ago, this wasn't the case. As someone long interested in office fitness, it has been very satisfying to watch the standing-desk industry emerge in force over the past few years.

standing desk trendYou can see in this chart from Google Trends how interest in standing desks took off in early 2011. That's about the time that sitting-disease research started showing up in the media, exemplified by that widely cited New York Times article, "Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?"

In just a few years, your choices in standing desk have grown dramatically. When I first went looking for standing desks in 2007, I found a handful of commercial options, a few home-made models, and a lot of makeshift, do-it-yourself solutions.

Now you can buy a seemingly endless range of standing desks. Risers that you can set down on your existing desk. Electrically height-adjustable models in styles that can match almost any office decor. High-end, futuristic desks that automatically remind you to stand. You can even get desks that adjust from sitting to standing and then all the way back to a reclining position, so you can work like an astronaut.

How to Choose the Right Standing Desk

Seattle legend Lyle George at standing deskBefore you start working at a standing desk, I recommend that you first prototype your healthy new work style. Grab your laptop and take a spin on a friend's standing desk. Jury-rig a standing platform by putting a file box on your desk or on a table or counter. Build yourself one of those famous $22 standing desks. Make sure the work surface brings your computer up to a comfortable typing position and spend an hour or two doing your regular duties.

Once you're convinced that a standing can work for you, you'll need to find the right standing-desk solution for you.

The first decision you'll need to make is whether to replace your existing conventional desk. If you have the option of replacing it, and if you have a reasonable budget ($500 or more), then I recommend an adjustable-height sit-stand desk. Most of these models adjust up and down with electric motors, but you can also find hand-cranked models and a few that use a counterbalance mechanism to raise and lower the desk.

Jarvis standing deskEven if you stand for the majority of the day (as I do), you'll still be better off with an adjustable-height model. If anyone else ever uses your desk, or if you ever get a new computer or other gear, you'll likely need to adjust the height. To keep your desk ergonomically optimized, you may even need to make small adjustments during the day to account for changes in your posture. If you do opt for a fixed-height desk, make sure you have another desk or table available for sitting breaks - not everyone can tolerate long stretches of standing, and even the most dedicated stander needs a break now and then.

If you are stuck with your conventional sitting desk for any reason (office policy, budget constraints, etc.), you can still stand by adding a desktop workstation or a standing riser to your desktop. This can be as easy as setting your laptop on a file box or a simple riser that lifts up your keyboard and monitor. You can also choose from a variety of commercial desktop risers, some that are fixed-height and a number of models that height adjust pneumatically or mechanically.

Standing-Desk Ergonomics

Working at a standing desk introduces some unique ergonomic challenges. See the standing desk ergonomics page for some tactics to optimize your standing desk ergonomic set-up.

Getting Started with Standing

Don't rush your transition to standing at work. Start with a few minutes here and there and then gradually work your way up to an hour two at a time. If you feel pain or fatigue, revisit the list of ergonomics tips above. And be sure to read my page on how to begin standing at work.

And if you get discouraged, remember what the Dwight Shrute character famously said on the “The Office” TV show, “Standing is proven to be healthier, increases productivity, and just looks cooler."